Josh Berk is the author of The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin (Knopf 2010), named a best book for teens of 2010 by Kirkus Reviews and Amazon.com. It was also awarded a Parent’s Choice Silver medal, a starred review from School Library Journal, and a perfect 10 from VOYA. His second comedy/mystery teen novel: Guy Langman: Crime Scene Procrastinator, will be published in 2012 (also by Knopf). He has previously been a journalist, a poet, a playwright, and a guitarist (mostly in bands known for things other than fine guitar-playing). He is a librarian and lives in Bethlehem,Pennsylvania, with his family. For more information, visit his website. For too much information, visit on Twitter.
Let the conversation begin!
What advice would you give to new writers?
I always give the advice to worry a lot about your writing and a little about getting published. Focus hard on the art of it and practice just as you would practice anything else. It’s a craft that can be honed, and part of that honing is the freedom to fail and fail again. Just keep practicing and playing and refining and messing with it. Then worry about publication — like all good things it will come with time.
In grade school, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Second baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies.
What was the weirdest food you’ve ever eaten?
A lot of people think scrapple is weird, but a lot of people aren’t from Pennsylvania. PA rules! Scrapple is sort of a gross mess of fried pig scraps but well I like it.
What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
The entirety of ‘Bird by Bird,’ a book by Anne Lamott. I wish I’d read it years ago and can’t recommend it enough.
What element would you add to your writing space if money wasn’t an issue?
I want one of those really good speech-to-text computers so I could just yell books at the computer and not have to type. Also then probably I should add “sound-proof walls” because my family and neighbors might not like this.
What is your secret talent?
I’m a pretty good juggler. It’s not really a secret. I tell everyone all the time. I’m waiting for someone to be impressed.
Do you let anyone read your work-in-progress? Or do you keep it a secret?
I used to be obsessively secretive! Now I am less superstitious. I run stuff past my wife who always offers great advice and contributes funny lines.
What was the best thing that happened to you this weekend?
Making music with my wife and friends. We have so much fun banging on guitars and drums, being creative and getting lost in the music. That sounds really corny but I love making music and I need the release it brings. I’m such a worrier and rocking out lets me turn off that nagging part of my brain for a while.
Would you rather publish a string of mainstream books or one classic?
I think there is nothing better to consider as a writer than writing a classic that will be read years after you’re gone. Also I’m kind of lazy and that seems easier.